I Will Seek What Was Lost
Shepherds, sheep, lambs, flock, seek, feed, tend, did you pick up on any theme in our readings today? It seems like this is more of a Word for pastors than for the flock itself. In fact the reading from 1 Peter is specifically addressed to pastors. So how then does this apply to you? I don't know, let's preach it and see!
In the OT lesson Ezekiel speaks a prophetic word about the work of Jesus through His church with the Gospel. The church led by the Chief Shepherd will go into the world with the Gospel and gather those who were scattered way back to the days of the Tower of Babel.
Have you ever dropped something on the floor like a melmac dish and have it shattered and scattered? Without a broom, how would you go about gathering the items back? You'd have to start somewhere, and that's what God did with Jesus.
The sheep were scattered worldwide and when the time was right God sent His Son to begin the re-gathering process. Jesus the Good Shepherd comes to the pasture we will call the world, and He starts with a remnant.
And so in v12 we see Him gathering a flock (the disciples) for the purpose of sending them out with the Gospel to bring the lost sheep of Babel back to the fold. “so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. (The day of Babel) “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries.” (v13) (The great commission)
What will He do with these sheep? What will He do with you and I, and those in Timbukto? V14 - “I will feed them in good pasture.” V15 - “I will feed My flock,” (v16 - “ I will seek what was lost, Bring back what was driven away, bind up what was broken, and strengthen what was sick. .”
This is what the Lord will do through His church. His church is charged with seeking the lost, bringing back those driven away because of their tower of Babel like arrogance, binding up those who have been broken by their sin, and strengthening those who are weak, battered by the world and it's ways.
Once reclaimed, then the sheep are to be tended and we see this process touched upon in the Gospel reading in the threefold charge given to Peter. “Feed My lambs,” “Tend My Sheep,” and “Feed My Sheep.”
The going, the gathering, gathering, the binding, the healing, the tending is all accomplished through the proclamation of this Word and the energy of the Holy Spirit. It is done through the church and the pastor serves a very important role in this whole process.
Eph 4:11,12 - “And He Himself gave (to His church) some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, (binding up and healing) for the edifying (strengthening) of the body of Christ.
Before the church can do any of this stuff, we as individuals need to be like Peter in that he was broken (over his sin) forgiven of his sin, and restored to spiritual wellness. This was the purpose of the Lord's line of questioning to Peter.
In addition we need to answer the same love questions that were asked of Peter. Where are your affections? We must love Jesus more than others. We must love Him even more than ourselves, and thirdly, we need to share His passion for the scattered and broken sheep.
Then and only then are we ready to be the church. It starts with the pastor.
Let's look at Christ's commands to Peter. “Feed My lambs.”
Lamb's would be considered to be new Christians. They are little children chronologically and little children spiritually. And they are to be fed with the pure milk of the Word. ( “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” ( 1 Pet 2:2,3)
The milk of the word is that part which reinforces God's love for them. It is Jn 3:16. It is this reassurance that “strengthens the weak” as Ezekiel put it. This is well and good and necessary, however there comes a time when the lamb has to be weaned off of milk alone and given solid food.
The second command then is to “Tend My sheep.” This involves much more than feeding milk to lamb! It is guiding the flock, guarding the flock, and folding the flock (keeping it in the confines of the pen) The pen is that area fenced in by the Word of God…the Law if you will.
There is tremendous freedom inside that pen, and the church is to learn to walk joyously in that freedom and help the other sheep find that freedom and revel in it. God's commands are not burdensome, they are freeing, and protecting.
The Word of God is the sufficient green pasture for God's sheep, and though it often appears greener on the other side, it is that false appearance that leads the sheep astray and causes them to be lost anew.
Finally, Jesus exhorts Peter (His church) to “Feed My sheep.” This is the level of maturity that the Good Shepherd is looking for in all of us. He desires that we become doers of the Word not merely hearers. We must move on to maturity. Unfortunately, most of the time we just move on.
Heb 5:12-14 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Regression!) For everyone who partakes only of milk, is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are full of age, that is those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
We need to use the Word of God. We need to apply it in our everyday living! Sheep are to be led to exercise righteousness and spiritual maturity through the application of the Word of God in their lives. This is done by trusting God's promises and obeying His commands.
Next week is “friendship Sunday.” It is an opportunity for you and I to reach out to one of those broken pieces of melmac and gather them back into the fold. It's an opportunity to reach out to the broken and weak. It's an opportunity to nudge that sheep who is dangerously close to the fence or maybe just beyond it back into the fold. It's an opportunity to lead a sheep to a pen where milk and meat are presented. Where people are challenged to trust God's promises and obey His commands.
Do you know any sheep like that? Invite them and let the Spirit of God take over from there.